Last August, players in the North American Soccer League voted 271 to 94 to be represented by a union headed by Ed Garvey, executive director of the NFL Players Association. A week later the National Labor Relations Board duly recognized Garvey's NASL Players Association as the players' exclusive bargaining agent. This supposedly obliged NASL owners to negotiate with the new union, but they refused. The NLRB will hold a hearing into the matter on May 4, and protracted legal action seems likely.
Unwilling to wait for the matter to inch through the courts, the union called a strike last week after its membership approved such an action by a vote of 252-113. But the question remained: How many players would actually stay on the sidelines during Saturday's full schedule of 12 games? Foreign players comprise 55% of NASL rosters and to help them make up their minds, Garvey circulated a reminder from the U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service that by law aliens working during a strike are subject to deportation. For their part, owners combed the sandlots for what they called "contingency" players.
As things turned out, all games were played, with 17 of the NASL's 24 clubs at or near full strength. Before a 5-2 defeat at the hands of the Tulsa Roughnecks, Yugoslavs on the Rochester Lancers urgently phoned to find out if countryman Vladislav Bogicevic had taken the field for the Cosmos against the Atlanta Chiefs. Bogicevic had done so, so the Rochester fence-straddlers went ahead and played, too. But seven clubs were seriously depleted by the strike. When 16 of 23 players of the aptly named Fort Lauderdale Strikers failed to appear for a game against the Washington Diplomats, Ron Newman, the club's 44-year-old coach, played, coughing and panting, alongside his 21-year-old son Guy, a reserve defender who had also been called into action because of the strike. The Strikers lost 4-0.
It remains to be determined whether any foreign players who crossed picket lines—and most did—will be deported, but by eagerly raising the possibility. Garvey scarcely advanced the cause of harmony within his fledgling union. On the other hand, Derek Carroll, president of the New England Tea Men, didn't distinguish himself when he said on behalf of the owners, "We're all in favor of a union, but not this union." The fact was that Garvey's union was the one selected by the players and, like it or not, owners in every other major sport negotiate with unions of their players' choosing. At a time when it is claiming to be the pro league of tomorrow, the NASL's labor practices somehow seem very reminiscent of yesterday.
THE SOUTH AFRICAN CONNECTION
Five South Africans who expected to run in the Boston Marathon were banned from officially doing so after the AAU warned the marathon's organizers that their presence would make other participants ineligible for international competition. South Africa belongs to neither the Olympic movement nor the International Amateur Athletic Federation, having been drummed out of both because of its apartheid policies.
This raises the question of how the University of Alabama's Jonty Skinner and Villanova's Sydney Maree, both South Africans, managed to compete in recent years in the AAU swimming and track championships, respectively. AAU Executive Director Ollan Cassell offers a rather complicated explanation. He says that while South Africans may participate in the U.S. in strictly domestic competition or in college meets, they may not take part in "international competition." Because swimming authorities define international competition as only those events in which athletes represent their countries. Skinner was able to enter AAU championships as a member of his club, Central Jersey Aquatics. The rule in track is more restrictive, banning South Africans regardless of whom they represent. But Cassell says that when Maree ran for the Philadelphia Pioneers in the 1978 AAU championships (he was runner-up in the 1,500-meter run to Steve Scott), officials didn't realize he was a South African. The fact that Maree is a black South African may have contributed to the oversight. At any rate, Cassell says, "He shouldn't have been allowed to compete. It was a mistake."
A BLEAT FOR THE SHEEP MEADOW
New York's Central Park contains an open grassy area known as the Sheep Meadow that is frequented by kite flyers, picnickers, strollers, stargazers, folk dancers, cross-country skiers, lovers, softball players and muggers. What the Sheep Meadow doesn't have is sheep. Sheep used to graze there and were penned in a sheepfold at the edge of the park, but city officials banished the animals in 1934. The sheepfold has since been converted into a posh restaurant, Tavern on the Green.
The other afternoon, in a promotional stunt staged by Viking Press, publisher of a new book entitled The Last Shepherds, sheep-dog trials were held in the Sheep Meadow. Such trials evolved in Scotland as a means of testing a dog's skills at herding sheep. A dozen border collies and their handlers were in Central Park, as were 30 Dorset sheep imported from Maine. The object was to determine how fast a dog could herd three sheep through a series of gates, over a wooden bridge and back into their pen. Handlers could shout instructions to their dogs or use whistles or hand signals.
The sheep didn't cooperate. Most of them balked at going onto the course and had to be prodded, sometimes strenuously. During the turn of Rob Roy, a champion 5-year-old owned by Maurice MacGregor of Bow, N.H., one of the sheep flopped down and refused to budge. MacGregor finally lifted its hindquarters to get it moving. The event was won by Spain, handled by Lewis Pence of Sidney, Ohio. He ran his sheep through the course in 3:14, an impressive clocking considering the recalcitrance of the animals he had to work with.
Might the sheep have been spooked by the bagpipe music that opened the festivities? Might they have been bothered by spectators? Whatever, author David Outerbridge, who collaborated with photographer Julie Thayer on The Last Shepherds and who was the P.A. announcer for the trials, wound up sheepishly admitting, "The problem is that the sheep don't like the Sheep Meadow."
ROLLING RIGHT ALONG
If you don't think that roller skating is all the rage these days, look what's happening in the funky seaside Los Angeles community of Venice. Roller skaters by the hundreds are overrunning the town, barreling along streets and sidewalks four, five and six abreast. They are also illegally using the bicycle paths. As a result, the Los Angeles Police Department has put patrolmen on bicycles to chase down offenders and issue tickets. The skaters in turn are voicing a demand that is sure to be echoed elsewhere. They want the city to put in roller-skating paths.
MUTE ON BUTE NO LONGER
Nick Jemas, managing director of the Jockey's Guild, has broken the union's long silence on the use of Butazolidin and other pain-easing substances at racetracks. Noting that four jockeys were killed last year and 1,500 others seriously injured, many of them in accidents involving medicated horses, Jemas blames such drugs for an "increasing parade of lame, sore, worn-out and completely exhausted horses." He adds, "These drugs appear to have been seriously abused for selfish gain. There has been complete inconsideration of the crippling danger to jockeys and horses."
One of the four jockeys killed last year was Robert Pineda, who was fatally injured at Pimlico when a horse named Easy Edith snapped a leg and Pineda's mount, Easter Bunny Mine, tripped over her. Easy Edith had been administered Butazolidin, and although Bute is legal in Maryland, Pineda's family has filed a $10 million suit in the U.S. District Court in Baltimore, accusing the owner, trainer and track of negligence. According to the plaintiffs, Butazolidin anesthetizes a horse, thereby posing "a great danger to all other horses and to all jockeys because such a horse cannot respond normally and properly to its own injuries." Trial has been set for October.
ON THE RIGHT TRACK
In 1974 the International Olympic Committee faced up to reality—namely, that amateur athletes must eat, too—and ruled that they could be paid for any time lost at work because of training. The IOC also created a possible source of revenue for such payments by allowing amateurs to appear in commercials so long as the fees went to their national federations. It was left to the world governing body for each sport to implement these changes, and the Fèdèration Internationale de Ski promptly did so. Skiers had long received payola from equipment manufacturers, but now money began changing hands openly. Today American stars like Cindy Nelson and Phil Mahre appear in equipment ads that yield revenue for the U.S. National Ski Team, which in turn pays athletes expense money and what is, in effect, a salary.
There has been no such upheaval in track and field, where under-the-table payments are still common practice. The International Amateur Athletic Federation didn't get around to implementing the IOC rules until 1976, and only now has the AAU, which governs the sport in the U.S., devised a scheme for taking advantage of them.
The AAU's first venture into athlete endorsements involves distance runner Frank Shorter, who will appear in ads for Hilton Hotels Corp., which will pay a $25,000 "sponsorship fee" to the AAU. Shorter will be rewarded only in a roundabout way; he will be on the Hilton payroll as a consultant and will make public appearances for the hotel chain.
Other companies undoubtedly will be willing to pay the AAU for the privilege of using big-name athletes in advertising, too. AAU officials say that the resulting revenues will go to track clubs and their members. Meanwhile, the athletes appearing in the ads presumably will be free to work out deals with sponsoring companies, as Shorter did with Hilton. Hank Tauber, director of the U.S. Alpine ski team, says that his federation's endorsement arrangements with equipment manufacturers "have taken a lot of the hypocrisy out of our sport." If the AAU's sponsorship program succeeds in doing the same in track, that would be quite an achievement. If it helps finance the U.S. Olympic effort, so much the better.
THAT SUNKEN FEELING
At last report Virginia Annable of Brook-haven, N.Y. was in a pickle (SCORECARD, March 19). Thieves had taken her 1966 Volkswagen for a joyride on then-frozen Great South Bay, which separates Long Island from its barrier beaches, and had left it to sink, which it inexorably did when the ice melted. The Army Corps of Engineers, calling the sunken car a hazard to navigation, contended that Annable had to hire a barge, crane and diver to remove it. That could have cost as much as $1,000; Annable, who teaches in a small private school and earns about $2,000 a year, declined.
Her plight prompted aides of New York Senator Jacob Javits to contact the Corps to see what might be done. The Corps has now agreed to let Annable off the hook and has promised to remove the car. As for who will foot the bill, Everett Chasen, a Corps spokesman, says, "Maybe we'll get some help from Suffolk County. I don't know how the money thing will work out except that the lady won't have to pay."
Now if only the car can be found. The tides have moved it, and the last couple of times crews looked for it, they came up empty. "We'll find it," vows Chasen. "The two days we picked to look, the weather was lousy and we misunderstood the Coast Guard's directions. We know pretty much where it is."
THEY SAID IT
•George Raveling, Washington State basketball coach, on Indiana's Bobby Knight: "He's the kind of guy who would throw a beer party and then lock the bathroom door on you."
•Steve Fuller, Clemson's senior quarterback, who's trying to choose between a law career and playing in the NFL: "You either have to finesse 12 people who weren't smart enough to get out of jury duty or 11 who weren't smart enough to play offense."